Evenings Out and Nightlife

In any city, ex-pats tend to congregate together and our local was the Café Oz Denfert Rochereau, 3 Place Denfert-Rochereau 75014, a typical Australian bar and about as un-Parisian as you could get. The chain of Frogpubs were another favourite, particularly The Frog & Princess, 9 Rue Princesse, 75006 although the microbrewery in the next street was better, Brasserie O’Neil, 20 Rue des Canettes, 75006. But even in the early days I would seek out Parisian bars rather than follow the herd from one English bar to the next and I preferred Chez Georges, 11 Rue des Canettes, 75006. However, the joy of exploring Parisian bars on your own wears off pretty quickly. For a start, beer in Paris is very expensive and they only serve 500ml, which is 12% less than a full pint. Expect to pay between 6 and 12 euros [2014 prices] for 500ml unless you only drink during happy hours, in ex-pat bars, or student dives. Moreover, the clientele can be very cliquey and insular. Whilst waiting for the internet connection to my apartment, I took my laptop into Le Petit Cardinal, 29 Rue Monge, 75005 every evening for a week and it quickly became apparent that it would be years before anyone would speak to me, I probably wouldn’t understand what they said, and even if I did manage to reply they would be so appalled by my French accent that they would never speak to me again! So what’s a chap to do in the evenings? Almost by accident I discovered “Paris Jazz” – small live music venues where they play anything from traditional jazz to heavy rock and everything in between. They draw a friendly crowd which is accepting of groups or solo explorers, so I’d happily go alone or with others. Of the 19 venues listed below, most are free entry and most were within walking distance from my apartment, they are listed in order of my personal preference:

  1. Le Caveau des Oubliettes
  • This nightspot is housed in a genuine 12th-century prison, complete with dungeons, and subterranean vaults that many centuries ago linked it with the fortress prison of Petit Châtelet. The bar staff claim that the wall graffiti is genuine! After 18 months in Paris and many live music venues, this one is still my favorite! It’s free entry although the beer is expensive – eleven euros for half a litre, so best to have a few before you arrive, not difficult because the band doesn’t come on until 10:30 pm! Free entry
    • 52 rue Galande, 7500522-le-caveau-des-oubliettes
  1. Le Caveau de la Huchette
  • If you like your jazz ultra trad then don’t miss this time warp! It feels like you have travelled back to the 1950s, with couples dancing and traditional old fashioned jazz music. The building is amazing, with winding stone staircases and stone carvings. You do have to pay an entrance fee and the beer isn’t particularly good – drink cocktails instead! Entry fee 12€
    • 5 rue de la Huchette, 7500523-caveau-de-la-huchette
  1. Café Universel
  • One of my favourite venues, and where I chose to spend my last evening in Paris. Relatively expensive drinks and they do pass around “le chapeau pour la bande” Free entry
    • 267 rue St-Jacques, 7500524-cafe-universel-2
  1. Le Cavern
  • Don’t bother with the crowded ground floor bar, go straight through and down to the basement which is a really good live music venue and bar – with better beer than upstairs. Generally the format seems to be an amateur student band first which brings in a young crowd, not the usual Saint-Germain-des-Prés set, then a professional band, usual rock, from around 9:30 pm. Sometimes they have comedy nights instead, and the venue closes for the whole of August, but I must have been here 12 times or more and found a really good band at least 10 times! Free entry
    • 21 rue Dauphine, 750064-le-cavern-club
  1. Cave du 38 Riv
  • I found this super little jazz club by accident, near the end of Rue De Rivoli on the east side. Its free entry some nights, the beer isn’t the best and fairly expensive but the atmosphere in such a small venue is superb! Entry fee sometimes, free entry sometimes!
    • 38 rue de Rivoli 750045-cave-du-38-riv
  1. Le Piano Vache
  • I lived down the road from here for 18 months and for the first 17, I spent Monday nights doing my washing and ironing. If only I’d found this place sooner, I’d have paid the concierge to do it and come here instead – Monday nights is live gypsy jazz and it is brilliant! Johnny Depp has been known to hang out here. Live music on Monday evenings only. Free entry
    • 8 rue Laplace, 7500513-gypsy-jazz-at-the-piano-vache
  1. The Guinness Tavern
  • It’s best to avoid the Chatlet area during the peak tourist season, but out of season this is a great venue with live bands seven nights a week playing into the early hours. Also a good range of beers including Guinness and other Irish ales, but be aware that they charge Parisian not Irish prices! Free entry
    • 31 B rue des Lombards, 7500110-the-guinness-tavern
  1. Le Relais de la Huchette
  • A bit cheesy and touristy but really friendly and good atmosphere. The pianist is brilliant, the singers are mixed but the best is the tall blonde lady on a Friday evening, fantastic voice and engages with the audience. Stays open until very late! Free entry
    • 14 rue de la Huchette, 7500514-le-relais-de-la-huchette-2
  1. L’International
  • Possibly the best live music venue in the 11eme, and that is a huge compliment given the excellent competition! Free Entry
    • 5 rue Moret, 750118-linternational-2
  1. Le Pop-Up du Label
  • A cool rock bar under the railway arches just off Avenue Daumesnil, used to be called Les Combustibles. Also has a lounge bar / restaurant upstairs. Free Entry
    • 14 rue Abel, 750127-le-pop-up-du-label-03-03-14
  1. L’Alimentation Generale (ALG)
  • I’ve been struggling to understand why the 11eme is the trendiest district in Paris, why leave the comfortable BoBo bars of the 5eme to drink out a plastic cup? (The post renaissance reinvention of “glass” has not yet reached the 11eme!) But now I get it, this place could only exist in the artisan districts! Why bother to convert your grocery store into a jazz bar when you could just hang a damask curtain around a temporary stage and put picnic tables around the place? Bring in a band that would not have looked out of place in 1970s New Orleans, et voila, finis! Free Entry
    • 64 rue Jean Pierre Timbaud, 750116-lalimentation-generale-2
  1. La Mécanique Ondulatoire
  • A student grunge bar, popular with Goths and Mods, with a subterranean mosh pit where the hygienically challenged feel no social embarrassment. The spilt beer on the floor had the adhesive qualities of super glue. Great fun – a really good night out! Small entry fee
    • 8 Passage Thiere, 750119-la-mecanique-ondulatoire
  1. Quartier Général
  • I couldn’t get into the Nouveau Casino and found this place by accident, reasonably priced drinks, free band and great atmosphere, really lively buzzing place. Apparently they have a gig most evenings except Mondays. Free entry
    • 103 rue Oberkampf, 7501112484828_10208699181747122_4082666103481726965_o
  1. Les Disquaires
  • Unusually for Paris, the bar and music stage are all on the same level, so in theory you can sit at the bar and watch the band. In practice the place gets very crowded so if your main interest is the band you need to arrive early to get a good position. Free entry
    • 4 rue des Taillandiers, 7501112-les-disquaires
  1. Le Pop In
  • An interesting bar with an unusual layout, you need to go up to the first floor to access the staircase to the basement where the gigs are held. Definitely worth a visit for the live music! Reasonably priced beer, Free entry
    • 105 rue Amelot, 7501116-pop-in
  1. Espace B
  • I found this amazing place tucked away in the extreme north east of Paris, so avant-garde that it’s still a working mans’ café with a rock band in the garage out the back. It even has a WC traditionnel! Unjustifiably, it charges an entry fee
    • 16 rue Barbanegre, 75019p1050235
  1. Ton Air de Brest
  • A tiny Breton bar decorated with comic drawings of rock celebrities located between my office and Montparnasse. A welcoming atmosphere, good ambiance, free gig, good beer and reasonably priced bar snacks. Free entry
    • 9 Rue Maison Dieu, 75014val-ton-air-de-brest
  1. Nouveau Casino
  • Local multipurpose club including live music on a regular basis. Unfortunately the gig I wanted to see was cancelled because the vocalist had a cold! There is a good bistro on the ground floor, Café Charbon, the venue is upstairs. 12 EUR to get in, plus 4 EUR to leave a bag in the cloakroom. Beer is 10 EUR for 500ml. Entry fee
    • 109 rue Oberkampf, 7501115-le-nouveau-casino
  1. Bataclan
  • The Bataclan is a theatre dating from1864, its name refers to Ba-ta-clan, an operetta by Jacques Offenbach. One of my former work colleagues was murdered during the attack of 13th November 2015. The venue reopens on 16th November 2016, just over one year later, with a concert by Peter Doherty, a sell-out despite a 40 euro ticket price. I will visit when I’m next in Paris and if I can get a ticket I will go in. For the terrorists to win they must instil within us both fear and hate, but the most important lessons I learnt during my time in Paris were to feel no fear and feel no hate. Je suis le Bataclan, je suis le onzième, je suis Paris, je suis tout et ils sont rien! Entry fee
    • 50 Boulevard Voltaire, 75011bataclan
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